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Former GM: Chargers Will Stay in San Diego

Preliminary Chargers Stadium Design

Regardless of the outcome of a November stadium referendum, the Chargers will remain in San Diego, according to the team’s former general manager.

As Election Day comes closer, the Chargers face several issues in selling their new stadium/convention center in East Village. Unless the State Supreme Court hears and affirms a previous case concerning tax increase initiatives from private entities, the Chargers will need two-thirds approval from voters rather than a simple majority. Furthermore, the team has struggled to gain the support of several groups within San Diego, including the tourism industry–which objects to funding a stadium through a hotel tax increase from 12.5% to 16.5%–and several other business leaders.

In other words, the Chargers face a steep uphill battle in selling the public on the $1.8 billion initiatives. While the November vote can if often tied to whether the team stays in San Diego, it is not that simple, according to former Chargers general manager A.J. Smith.

During a recent radio interview, Smith–who was the team’s general manager from 2003-2012–said that both the Chargers owners and the NFL see too much value in San Diego to abandon the market. Smith also says that a move to Los Angeles is unlikely. While the NFL has given the Chargers until January 2017 to exercise an option to join the Los Angeles Rams at a new stadium in Inglewood, Smith believes that neither team desires that scenario. Via CBS Sports, here is a sample of Smith’s remarks on The Mighty 1090-AM:

Although the Chargers might point out that they’re allowed to move to Los Angeles if the stadium vote in November falls through, Smith says that move will never happen because the Chargers and Rams want nothing to do with each other.

“There is no option to go to L.A.,” Smith said. “The people I talk to, my sources, you hear options, there’s an option to go … and there’s paperwork that says [there’s] an option, but the reality is that there’s no option. L.A. has the Rams there and it will be the Rams.”

According to Smith, the Rams will get the L.A. market to themselves as a favor from the league. Apparently, Rams owner Stan Kroenke wanted to move the team in 2015, but didn’t go through with it because the NFL asked him to hold off for a year.

“The Rams were going to go to L.A. in 2015, they didn’t need anyone else and they were on their way,” Smith said. “And my sources told me, as far as the league, they said to Mr. Kroenke, ‘Please, just hold off for a year, just stay where you are.’ And it was granted. He stayed. Not a problem.”

Supposing for a moment that Smith’s remarks are indeed true, the Chargers would face the issue of how to revive stadium talks in San Diego. Previous polling has indicated stronger support for a stadium closer to the Qualcomm Stadium site than in East Village, and the Chargers might make a clearer case by distancing themselves from a new convention center. However, it remains to be seen how this proposal will perform in November and whether relations between the community and the team are affected by the outcome.

If Smith is wrong, and the Chargers still seek a move, Los Angeles would be the most immediate solution. In the event that the Chargers look at other options, the status of the Oakland Raiders could come into play. The team is inching closer to leaving Oakland–where public funding for a new stadium is unlikely–and moving to Las Vegas. Most talks in Las Vegas have centered around strictly attracting the Raiders, so firmer conversations over whether the Chargers could fit into that scenario–if there is even a fit–are probably a little ways down the road.

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August Publications